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Name: People v. Jantz
Case #: B175147
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 03/27/2006

The court erred when it failed to give a limiting instruction regarding a defendant’s statements to experts concerning his judgment. On appeal from a murder conviction, the defendant argued that the court should have instructed the jury at his sanity trial that it could consider his statements to a mental health expert only to show the basis of the expert’s opinion and not for their truth. The Court of Appeal agreed, but found that the error concerned only the instruction and not the admission of the evidence, and that it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The court also held that the evidence at the guilt phase supported the instruction for first degree murder by lying in wait, where the prosecution produced evidence from which a reasonable jury could have concluded that the defendant concealed his purpose to kill his wife. The evidence showed that the defendant and his wife had spoken on the phone several times on the day of the murder, and common sense permits an inference that had the telephone conversations alerted his wife to his murderous intentions, she would not have walked into her home knowing that by doing so she risked being killed. Moreover, other evidence from the crime scene supported an inference that defendant watched and waited for the opportune moment to attack his wife, and prior threats to the victim would not necessarily negate the concealment and surprise elements of lying in wait.